Will Juncker's plans make the EU more social?

Commission President Juncker on Wednesday presented plans to introduce Europe-wide minimum standards for employees in a bid to fight populism by making the Union more social. Some journalists observe that the timing couldn't be better. Others believe the EU is hugely overstepping its competences.

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El País (ES) /

Well-timed proposals

Britain's exit from the EU also offers an opportunity to catch up on social reforms, El País observes, pointing out that this could help Macron in the runoff:

“The political opportunity the package offers - despite its tardiness - is clear. The plans began in March last year and were supposed to be concretised this spring. Chance and above all the huge pressure of unfolding events has led to the announcement coinciding with the second round of the French elections, which will strengthen pro-European and centrist Emmanuel Macron's candidacy. And it also coincides with the start of the Brexit negotiations between the EU and Britain, which will cause losses and disadvantages for all sides. But at the same time it presents an opportunity for the EU to carry out tasks that have been pending for a long time, such as the social reforms that London has blocked since it joined in 1973.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Paternity leave does not concern the EU

The only concrete legislative proposal in Juncker's package stipulates among other things that fathers should receive special paid leave when their children are born. A good idea, De Volkskrant writes, but why should the EU have anything to do with it?:

“Much speaks in favour of extending paternity leave. It can be an import step toward eliminating unequal treatment on the labour market in this country, where it is mostly women who work part-time. ... That has a lot to do with the fact that household tasks are still unequally distributed. ... But the Commission should have thought twice before presenting a European plan on the issue. The EU isn't under pressure in many member states because there are too few European rules and regulations, but because there are too many. ... The EU has no business interfering in affairs that the member states can regulate on their own, precisely because it lacks the democratic legitimation for that.”

Die Tageszeitung taz (DE) /

Proposals just a fig leaf

Juncker is pursuing a purely symbolic policy aimed at the elections in France and Germany, taz criticises:

“But that won't be enough to overcome the dangerous social and economic crisis in which Europe finds itself. It is a consequence of the neoliberal policy that led during the euro crisis to massive social cuts. The EU must change this policy, for instance by introducing an EU-wide minimum wage. But the political will for that is lacking. The politicians still talk of 'social Europe' in their grandiloquent speeches - most recently at the EU anniversary summit in Rome at the end of March. But after the elections in France and Germany all that is likely to be over, because the proposals from Brussels are not future-oriented. On the contrary, they even contain the option of further social cuts. The EU leaders are to discuss whether to take avail of this option only after the elections, probably at the EU summit in December. Then the EU will no doubt show its true, neoliberal face.”